Tess Lea: "Applying Policy Ecology: Indigenous housing, health, and sustainability"

The Departmental Seminar Series features Tess Lea, professor at the Department of Gender and Cultural Studies at the University of Sydney

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This seminar will be a hybrid event where professor Lea will be presenting via Zoom. Those who want to attend physically are more than welcome to join us in the meeting room on the ground floor at Gullhaug torg 1.

Join Zoom meeting.


This paper reports on an application of an anthropological method and concept that I have dubbed 'policy ecology' (Lea 2020). It briefly explains what the three critical dimensions of this concept (policy artefacts, policy ambience and policy hauntology) before describing how it can be applied in practice. Turning to a recently submitted body of research on Australian Indigenous housing in regional and remote areas, this talk shows how applied anthropology can also remain theoretically critical, while thinking through what ‘change’ might require.

The report finds that climate change in the form of increased heat is affecting regional and remote areas hardest, and that housing is not adequate now, let alone under even the mildest of climate change scenarios (at 1.5oC). Construction standards need radical revision.

Applying a policy ecology approach means thinking through what this is all part of, knowing that making specific recommendations is also to perpetuate systems that contribute to the problem. The inherent double vision of anthropology – act and watch what you’re acting in – is a key method for the troubles of our times.

Brief Bio

Tess Lea is a Professor of Anthropology and Cultural Studies at the University of Sydney, Australia. Her latest book, Wild Policy: Indigeneity and the Unruly Logics of Intervention (2020, Stanford University Press) is an extended exploration of the relationship between global trade, militarised extractivism and Australian Indigenous social policy assemblages.

Published Jan. 6, 2022 9:18 AM - Last modified Jan. 6, 2022 9:18 AM